I carry hope through darkness. Before the election, I hope that rationalism will reign supreme. It’s novelty. People love novelty, like my father with his coterie of women, some younger than me. Even after the election, I hold on, imagine humanity waking up soon enough. Becoming kinder. Surely it’s a blip. Novelty can’t last. Surely there’s hints of good beneath the chants of lock X up or lock Y up, beneath the flesh-worn scowls and blood-red caps. There must be stories behind the people, stories of darkness and familial dissolution and loss of jobs and dignity. Rationalism can’t be dead. Surely one can mine the good, separate the wheat from the chaff. Surely this nightmare exists for some reason, to awaken us, to catalyze redemption, to do something.
People laugh, call me an idiot. I need to wake the fuck up, they say. What has hope achieved, Nick? Hope doesn’t keep immigrants or lesbians safe, asshole. They turn on me with feral force, weariness in their eyes, souls drained of empathy. Fuck empathy, fuck empathy.
I hold onto hope, wake up with her. I let her bid me good night beneath luminous moon. Let her soothe me after another lit mag rejects me, after I suffer criticisms from fathers with a Stalin mustache and modus operandi like an orange man. Bad son, too artistic. Use people, lose people. Hope, how I love her, a constant being, while I try to create, to construct. Let her soothe me even more now with hatred expanding, a plague bacillus. How I hold on and yet, she seems more and more fleeting. Walls, Mexico, wanting country back, cold phrases chase hope, beautiful hope. But I proclaim fealty to her.
Meanwhile, friends all banter about the downfall of the republic, the idiocy of humanity in the safety of bars and coffee shop, booze and safety shaping their words. Humanity isn’t worth it, they proclaim, let people get what they deserve. Hillbilly jokes abound, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, reduced to one-liners.
For a time, I try on cynicism, try to understand it. Feel its shape and form, its attraction. It’s not hard when children are separated at the border, when neo-Nazis and swastikas seem ubiquitous. When fundamentalists steal faith and turn love into hatred. It’s easy to sink into darkness, look into shadows, to brood and be consumed.
I let my mind drift into dark fantasy. What a mistake. Especially when forces proclaim fake news and deny logic. Darkness comes crawling out of hope, like a Trojan Horse waiting for victory. I imagine some Exodus-like plague waking people up, locusts and frogs attacking and people’s first-born sons kicking the bucket. How horrid I feel. And how good. Hope is a tender thing, but anger is like a Red Bull, a force I’ve not felt with this much energy. It makes you want to go out, to fight, feel electrical energy, thrilling and frightening.
Hope has been wounded. I’ve betrayed her. I revert to hope. Fast. Cling tight, beg for atonement, even while division tempts me in her red dress. I do everything to revive hope, even as voices of separation rise from the TV. Liberal elites, fake news. Hope for beauty to burst through charcoal-colored clouds like a beautiful spring rain. I imagine the day it happens, the rich wetness, the whisper of joy, the beginning of renewal. I try not to imagine the rawness of the day, the mud on people, caked so deep.
I won’t let go of hope. I can’t. Hope, hope, hold onto me. She’s slipping. I can’t let go. I won’t.
Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University's MFA program in fiction. His story, ‘Soon’, was nominated for a Pushcart. Yash’s stories are forthcoming or have been published in Café Lit, Mad Swirl, 50 Word Stories, and Ariel Chart, among others.
Of the piece Radical Hope, Yash says…
‘The present political climate served as a catalyst. I have an affinity for questioning and examining social and societal norms. To that end, I thought it would be interesting to examine the notion of finding ‘radical hope’ in the present climate and highlight the struggle that it entails.’